For the past five years, teacher recruitment targets have been missed. A number of reasons for this have been raised but one repeatedly identified problem is a teacher’s workload and the stress this causes.
Why are targets being missed?
You may have seen recent adverts promoting careers in teaching which aim to encourage more individuals to take up the profession. They make it look like a great career choice, so what’s stopping people signing up? Well, the adverts don’t appear to reflect the statistics.
In 2017, the Department for Education workload survey found that classroom teachers and middle leaders work 54.4 hours a week on average with senior leaders averaging 60 hours. The long hours could explain the reason figures also show the number of teachers quitting for non-retirement reasons has increased from 22,260 in 2011 to 34,910 in 2016^. Another worrying statistic showed that of those who qualified in 2011 alone, 31% had quit within five years of becoming teachers.* These figures and the expectation of an ever increasing workload for future teachers mean that a teachers workload is one of the key issues when it comes to recruitment.
Given the reported shortage of teachers you would think that existing teachers would have job security, however, this is not the case. Through SAS Daniels’ own recent research*, I can report that 1 in 5 of the teachers surveyed were worried about redundancy at least once every term and more than a quarter of schools (27%) had experienced redundancies in the past 12 months. Given the Institute for Fiscal Studies is estimating an 8% real-terms cut in school spending per pupil by 2020, these concerns are unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future. This would explain why the survey found that nearly one third of the teachers surveyed said they expected an increase in redundancies over the next two to three years.
What are the government doing to improve the rate of teacher recruitment?
Recently Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, made his first speech to heads and teachers at the Association of School and College Leaders where he identified tackling the shortage of teachers as a top priority. He pledged to “strip away” pointless tasks to allow teachers to “focus on what actually matters”. He further stated that “too many of our teachers and our school leaders are working too long hours – and on non-teaching tasks that are not helping children to learn.”
Unfortunately no real clarity was provided on how teacher’s workload would be reduced other than “that there will be no new tests or assessment for primary schools and no changes to the national curriculum, GCSE or A levels for the remainder of this parliament, beyond those already announced”.
However, it is likely schools will continue to suffer from difficulties in recruitment and staff absence. Our research also showed that 22.4% of the school staff surveyed felt that dealing with repetitive short-term absence was taking up time that should be spent managing or teaching. This figure doesn’t include long term absences and these will continue to be of great concern and expense to schools.
How can schools manage stress and improve recruitment?
How schools manage absence is important and ensuring a robust practice is in place which supports the employee in returning to and maintaining attendance at work is essential. Getting advice from medical professionals is important but asking the right questions is crucial for efficient and effective resolutions. Having a dedicated HR function can assist and also help reduce the stress on senior staff and free up the time of head teachers and deputy heads.
To read more about the research, please download a copy of our independent report.
*the research was commissioned by SAS Daniels LLP and carried out by OnePoll between 05.12.2017 and 13.12.2017 interviewing 500 school workers. OnePoll are members of ESOMAR and employ members of the MRS.